Water

by Abbey Khambule

The tide grows.

A charm of firefinches flies over the promontory, breaks open and tumbles on the wind like roller pigeons; retreats inland, fleeing the ribboning tongue of the sun setting in the ocean. I imagine it to be of fledgling Cape robin-chats. I see them peter out in the New World, piercing the horizon with the music of their fathers—gorging on the buttery glow, not knowing where it ends.

Water is a violent thing, so is space. From the smallness of space found in an empty cup, to the vast and unbroken space of the universe.

Emptiness.

Space between you and me—the long distance between us, so violent. I feel the cold aching and twirling like wind in my bone, the marrow within famished, spun into yarn. I’m hollowed out, my limbs cramp as if seized by a force of the deep ocean.

I try to remember how we first met. If you were here, you’d remind me.

I asked you to stay. You said I was everywhere, like water; filled every space of the house we built; had no room for you.

*

On our way to Nylstroom we got lost, so you told me the story of the Cape robin-chat.

Once upon a time, a Cape robin-chat flew into outer space without ever touching land. Near the edge of creation, he stopped and rested on a tiny planet. There, he found a giant circus of blind puffins that could not fly. His chest full of sunset, the Cape robin-chat offered the puffins the gift of flight, saying they can eat as much sunset as they want. But the puffins refused and instead asked for the gift of music, and in return they offered to teach the Cape robin-chat how to walk.

“Why do you refuse the gift of flight?”, the Cape robin-chat asks.
“Because we are blind, and have no use for wings”
“What use have you for legs then?”
“Because we have rivers here. They show the way”
“Rivers? There are no rivers here but endless rock”, the Cape robin-chat objects.
“You won’t see them with your eyes because they run below the land, spread about like veins beneath skin”
The fearless Cape robin-chat bursts into laughter and song, and then asks, “But, with your inelegant walk, how do you see the way?”
“The rivers, they speak. We listen with our feet”

I laughed gently, unsure. You gave a half smile, quietly unfurled the R101.

*

There was protest on the streets. That’s how we met. I see the riot the way I see the ocean spread before me; how it could’ve exposed us—to each other—the way it does the gentle and the meek. But I hear music, the sound of water and sticks breaking. We both search our way through the crowd.

I rise into the dusk of the peninsula, head into the eastwardly wind for the promise of the sun.

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